I. America Turns Outward
From the end of the Civil War to the 1880s, the United States was very isolationist, but in the
1890s, due to rising exports, manufacturing capability, power, and wealth, it began to expand onto the
world stage, using overseas markets to sell its goods.
The “yellow press” or “
also influenced overseas expansion, as did missionaries inspired by
Our Country: It’s Possible Future and Its Present Crisis
. Strong spoke for civilizing and
People were interpreting
’s theory of survival-of-the-fittest to mean that the United States
was the fittest and needed to take over other nations to improve them.
Such events already were happening, as Europeans had carved up Africa and China
by this time.
Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan
’s 1890 book,
The Influence of Sea Power
Upon History, 1660-1783
, argued that every successful world power once held a great navy. This
book helped start a naval race among the great powers and moved the U.S. to naval supremacy. It
motivated the U.S. to look to expanding overseas.
James G. Blaine pushed his “Big Sister” policy, which sought better relations with Latin America,
and in 1889, he presided over the first
, held in Washington D.C.
However, in other diplomatic affairs, America and Germany almost went to war over the Samoan
Islands (over whom could build a naval base there), while Italy and America almost fought due to the
lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans, and the U.S. and Chile almost went to war after the deaths of two
American sailors at Valparaiso in 1892.
The new aggressive mood was also shown by the U.S.—Canadian argument over seal hunting
near the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska.
An incident with Venezuela and Britain wound up strengthening the Monroe Doctrine.
British Guiana and Venezuela had been disputing their border for many years, but when gold was
discovered, the situation worsened.